The Philippine embassy in Tokyo said earlier that there were 538 Filipinos on the ship, including seven passengers.
AFP/Behrouz Mehri
Pinoys on cruise ship to be repatriated – DFA
Mayen Jaymalin, Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - February 20, 2020 - 12:00am

1st Pinoy with COVID recovers

MANILA, Philippines — The government will start repatriating soon over 400 Filipinos onboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess as the 14-day quarantine period in Japan to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) came to an end yesterday.

“I have ordered our Tokyo embassy to immediately repatriate our people in the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan. It’s our duty to take care of our overseas Filipinos wherever they are. I want them home now!” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted.

The Philippine embassy in Tokyo said earlier that there were 538 Filipinos on the ship, including seven passengers.

However, only those who are asymptomatic and who tested negative for COVID-19 in the course of the 14-day quarantine in Japan would be repatriated, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

At a press conference in Manila, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said government was finalizing plans for the repatriation of the Filipinos on board the Diamond Princess and coordinating the move with Japanese authorities.

“The repatriation is going to be soon, in the coming days. We are just finalizing coordination with the facility,” she said.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez also gave his assurance that preparations for repatriation were ongoing, including details on their health tests to be cleared for departure.

But Vergeire clarified that repatriation is on a voluntary basis and will be undertaken simultaneously, unlike the suggestion of the Japanese government to do it in batches.

“We may be using one or two planes depending on the number of those to be repatriated, but they will be arriving in the country at the same time,” the DOH official said.

While only those cleared of infection will be repatriated, the DFA assured the public that Filipinos who are in hospital for treatment would be repatriated as soon as these hospitals grant them medical clearance.

Vergeire said before boarding the plane, all repatriates will be tested. Teams from the DOH will be with the repatriates.

Upon their return to the Philippines, they would undergo another 14-day quarantine “to minimize the possibility of transmission,” she said.

A quarantine facility has been chosen and the DOH and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) began discussions with the local government unit concerned.

“We understand their concerns that is why we are coordinating with the LGUs and the communities,” Vergeire said, adding that the repatriation will start as soon as the quarantine facility is ready.

There are health facilities near the selected quarantine site so that necessary medical services can be extended to the repatriates in case of emergency.

Since the Filipino members of the Diamond Princess crew still have existing employment contracts, their foreign employer will be shouldering the cost of their repatriation. The Philippine government will be providing all the necessary medical services when they get home.

First Pinoy with COVID-19 recovers

Meanwhile, the first Filipino who tested positive for the coronavirus aboard the Diamond Princess has recovered and was set to be discharged from hospital yesterday.

But the Philippine embassy in Tokyo also reported that six more Filipino crewmembers of the ship have tested positive for COVID-19.

This raises to 41 the total number of Filipinos infected with the virus from the ship docked in Yokohama, Japan as the quarantine period ended, the DOH said.

The first Filipino who tested positive for the coronavirus was admitted in the hospital last Feb. 5, along with nine others from the Diamond Princess.

Vergeire said the Filipino patient has been successfully treated.

The embassy said all the Filipinos who tested positive for COVID-19 are in medical facilities in and around the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. Among them was the new group of six Filipinos who tested positive for the virus yesterday.

Vergeire said all 41 Filipinos infected with the virus aboard the Diamond Princess are crew.

“Once a person on board the cruise ship tests positive, they immediately disembark and (are) taken to a referral hospital in Japan,” Vergeire said.

Philippine officials closely coordinate with the Japanese government to know the condition of the Filipino patients as well as those still on the ship, she said.

Repatriates from Wuhan

Meanwhile, Filipinos repatriated from Wuhan City – epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak – are all asymptomatic and expected to complete their 14-day quarantine on Saturday.

Vergeire said the repatriates will be free to go home, but the concerned regional offices will check on them. “After going home, we will still be monitoring them for two weeks to check them for possible symptoms,” she said.

She said one of the repatriates, a 38-year-old pregnant female, was taken to a hospital because of hypertension and edema. She was accompanied by her husband, also among those repatriated.

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